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Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Grape Concern...

Yes, you've read that correctly, as the title is deliberate. It was thought up after a verse in John's Gospel was brought to my attention - 15:1-2, which, from the NIV, reads:
I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

This was brought to my attention after posting my last blog: He Who Overcomes. As one who believes in Eternal Security of the Believer, this verse certainly looks as if the whole doctrine falls flat.

When I consider many of the verses John wrote, such as he who believes in him shall have eternal life, he must mean what he had said. When Jesus declared himself the Bread of Life and everyone eating shall live, he meant that metaphorically, but still we don't expect any small print to condition such a statement. Then with his insistence on his union with the Father, and what the Father have given him he shall in no wise cast out. This concludes with a declaration that all three: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were sealed with the covenant that none of those the Father had given will ever be lost, but all kept and protected - all of these found in chapters 6, 10 and 17. Luke also wrote that at the Last Supper, we have Jesus reassuring Peter that he had prayed to the Father that his faith would not fail (22:31-32.)
Then in the parables which Jesus himself taught, we can read of a woman taking leaven and mixing it into the dough - symbolising the Holy Spirit doing a work in the believer which cannot be undone, as the leaven cannot be separated from the dough once it has been mixed in - Matthew 13:33. Then the distinction between the wicked and the just (13:47-50) at the end of human history, which indicate that the wicked remained evil and the just, righteous, as pictured by different species of fish caught in the net. The parable of the tares tells very much the same thing - that the wheat and the tares were two distinct species of grass. The seeds of wheat were sown by the landowner himself, while the seeds of the tares were sown at the landowner's field by an enemy. The wheat remained as wheat, and tares as tares, there were no conversion from one to the other, no wheat turning into tares - Matthew 13:24-30.
The idea of Eternal Security, according to these parables and the discourses recorded in the Gospels, depends on who we are; children of God. In John 10, one of the Lord's main discourses is that sheep which belongs to the Good Shepherd will follow him, and they are promised eternal life, given to them by the Shepherd himself. Jesus then emphasised that none of his sheep would pay any attention to a stranger, for his voice being unfamiliar, would set off instinctive alarms which would cause them to flee from the voice of a stranger.

Then we have such beautiful promises in Paul's letters, in particular Romans chapter eight, and Ephesians Chapters 1-3. For example, I quote these verses (NIV):
What, then, can we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?
It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, he was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and who is interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39, emphasis mine.

We as children of God cannot ever be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus! These are the most plain and straightforward words which teaches Eternal Security, or Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS.) We cannot lose our salvation after conversion because we are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17.) However, just as two species of fish will always remain the same two species, likewise, wheat will always be wheat and tares will always be tares, it's through the grace of God that we have been adopted into God's family from being Satan's slaves. In a sense, because of our regeneration of our spirits, we have become "changed species" and therefore we could never go back to the "species" we were before. That is why I'm such an advocate of OSAS. We are a new creation, forever adopted into God's family.

Therefore, on the face of it, John 15:1-8 looks like a direct contradiction to all what was said above. I'll quote verse 2 again, from the NIV:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

The RSV puts it like this:

Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Like the RSV, the KJV as it:

Every branch that beareth not fruit he takes away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

According to the Greek/English New Testament, the verse says:

Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes it, and every (branch) the fruit bearing, he prunes it that fruit more it may bear.

It is the word "away" added into the verse by the English translators when the KJV was printed in 1611 and most likely in earlier English translations. The word was added to bring out the full sense of what Jesus was trying to say, according to the translators. However, the UK is not the land for growing grapevines, not so much because it isn't warm enough, rather, there is too little sunshine throughout the year. Therefore in the UK, and certainly in the days of King James' reign, no one here really understood what was involved in growing and harvesting grapes. By contrast, in the Middle East, where the land enjoys long spells of Summer sunshine, grapevines were, and are abundant. And such were harvested in the region for millennia. The Canaanites knew how to grow and harvest grapes long before Israel invaded Canaan under Joshua's leadership.

In preparation for this blog I did a little research myself on the Internet, mainly to confirm what I have already suspected, from a sermon delivered some years ago, that branches not bearing fruit are not cut off by the gardener, instead they are moved to another position to maximise exposure to the sunlight.
Year old grapevines positioned on trellises
The fruitless branches referred to here were the youngest shoots which needs plenty of sunlight exposure before they can bear any fruit. Hence the need of climbing frames or trestles for these young shoots to be lifted up. These young shoots don't produce any fruit for the first year, maybe two years. The young branches will not be cut off from the vine, instead they guarantee that the vine has a future. When the branch begins to bear fruit, both good and inferior quality grapes grow on it. The inferior grapes are cut away and disposed of until the branch produces only sound fruit - good for both eating and wine making. A grapevine that is well taken care of can last up to a hundred years.

Christians who don't believe in Eternal Security will point to verse six, which reads:

If  anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

To be honest, it is easy to read "Hell" into the verse, making it read that abiding in Christ through human willpower or choice is essential  to "stay saved." Rather, the verse seem to imply that the branch became separated from the rest of the tree by some force before it started to wilt, or dry up. Living branches just don't voluntarily sever themselves from the rest of the tree, unless the whole tree is diseased. To be severed, it would either be cut with a pruning tool, a saw or an axe, or broken off by force. But in either case the cause of the severance is from outside, causing the branch to die afterwards. When considering that Jesus prayed for Peter's faith not to fail, and shortly afterwards made a request with his Father for all believers to be kept safe and protected; would God allow a branch to be broken off his tree by an outside force? Would God sever a believer after adoption into his family, against the request of his own Son?

But on the other hand, history is full of those who claim to be Christian but had never experienced a re-birth of the Spirit. Having travelled extensively, I have blended into whole populations who assert their Christian background but have never experienced a re-birth of the spirit. Many of these attend church on a regular basis, yet remain in their sin. I have even watched TV documentaries about Pirates of the Caribbean and seen the movies, how they have paid respect to the Bible and claim a Christian heritage, yet I doubt that any of them were saved; or in one of Charles Dickens's novels, how a career housebreaker and murderer had claimed a Christian background, but showed no indication of having salvation.

The fate of the lost could well be compared with discarded, wilted branches which are collected and burned. But we need to remember that the whole discourse, from the start of chapter 14 to the end of chapter 16 was about the Holy Spirit taking the place of Jesus' physical presence after his resurrection and ascension. In John 14:16-17, Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit will abide in them forever. The Holy Spirit in the vine is here symbolised as the sap flowing into the branch. The life of the branch is in the sap itself, enabling the branch to bear fruit. If the sap dries up, the branch will wither. In turn, the young, yet fruitless branch needs both the sap and plenty of sunlight before it can bear fruit. The sap is the Holy Spirit; the sunlight is the Bible, both essential for maturity.

The discourse took place after the Last Supper but before entry into the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas Iscariot had already gone to the Pharisees to discuss how to hand Jesus over to them. So the Lord was talking to the Eleven, all true believers. The illustration of the grapevine was familiar to all his listeners, who probably had a vineyard or even a single vine in their back gardens. They knew exactly what he was talking about. Young shoots are simply not mature enough for fruit bearing and instead, need to be exposed to the sunlight.

It is very much the same as in the parable of the sower. Four types of ground are mentioned; with the fourth, the good soil, eventually producing a crop which will feed others. But everyone knew, as well as Jesus himself, that seed falling on good soil will not produce a harvest the next day! Instead, for days after the initial sowing, maybe even for weeks, the surface of the soil does not look much different. But even then, after the first shoots begin to appear, it will be months before the crop is ready to harvest.

It is a good illustration. Jesus had never advocated instant maturity straight after conversion. As with the wheat and the tares, both needed time to grow and mature. The woman mixed leaven into the dough, but this did not make the produce ready for eating. It would first need to be baked and then allowed to cool before consumption. The pattern is the same in all illustrations. The young branches does not produce fruit because the branch isn't yet mature. It needs extra sunlight. In the same way, a new believer isn't expected to bear fruit straight away. He needs first to grow spiritually. He needs to read the Bible, through it get to know the Lord, learn to pray and enjoy fellowship with other believers in a church where encouragement is found. Fruit will come later.
But once saved always saved. He is adopted into God's family and he will never perish. Fruit is not expected so soon after believing. Neither should we expect God to sever him from his family to a lost eternity in Hell.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

He Who Overcomes...

I have a good friend at the church I attend, who I knew for a few years. One of his strong characteristics is that he is devoted to prayer and spiritual matters. So I approached him to ask  for prayer over some emotional concerns. We began talking, and he suddenly came up with a statement that he does not believe in Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS). Later in the talk, with a little provocation on my part, he revealed that he is a follower of David Pawson. He then went to defend him, saying how helpful he has been to him and that he knew the Bible "inside out."

This young man had read my blogs, and my support of OSAS, or Eternal Security of the Believer, as it is also referred. Yet my heart fell, even though I tried to hide my disappointment. Here in the UK, Pawson, from a Methodist background, is a national celebrity in the Christian world. I would say that he is the British equivalent of the American Dan Corner, who also spends a lot of his time debunking OSAS. And that's why I feel the need to write. Because of his celebrity status, many Christians like my young friend who quickly and without hesitance side with Pawson, and uphold his esteem as someone greater and much better educated than any "ordinary" Christian believer such as myself. Let's face it: Pawson had studied for a M.A. degree in theology at Cambridge, he had also stood in front of an audience in public venues many times, he wrote books, he made sermon recordings and videos. He also speaks regularly on C.B. Radio (Christian Broadcasting.) Little wonder my friend is one of many Christians who feels besotted by him!

British celebrity David Pawson.

I once read of a Methodist church declaring that OSAS is "the devil's doctrine" which would lead to a licence to sin. If Eternal Security had really had its origins from the devil, then we hit a serious problem. The Bible says that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19, also 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 12:31, Ephesians 6:12.) If we consider that neither Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox churches accept OSAS as true, neither does many Protestant denominations - Pentecostal, Church of Christ, Methodists, Anglican Church, Assemblies of God - neither of these believe in Eternal Security, even some members of Baptist churches don't believe in it either, like my young friend.  Thus, a huge majority of mainstream Christians may justify such a declaration that OSAS is the doctrine of devils -  until we add to these, the cults: Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Unitarians - none of these believe in it, either. Then not to mention Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hindu and Confucianism - which the idea of eternally saved would sound strange to all of them. And even atheists, who is out against the concept of the existence of God, would see OSAS as an odd doctrine, along with the agnostics, people who are unsure about the existence of God.

Therefore by concluding that Eternal Security is from the devil, then as one who has power over an unbelieving world, he has failed miserably in promoting this "lie" - the doctrine accepted by a tiny percentage of the world population. Or in re-wording; if OSAS is from the devil, then why does the large majority of the population believe in the unbiblical idea that one has to either work to earn one's salvation or to strive to keep it?

No doubt, if I was to sit at the feet of Pawson, I would be shown all the verses which disprove OSAS and be encouraged to strive to attain eternal life, with the single present tense of "I am being saved" rather than the threefold; "I am already saved" (spirit, regeneration) "I am being saved" (soul, hence sanctification) and "I will be saved" (body, a future resurrection).

If I were to debate with David Pawson, or Dan Corner for that matter, no doubt they would verbally knock me out, so to speak. Their knowledge of the Bible, I must admit, are immense. But unfortunately, my experience in associating with them, whether its reading their literature, listening to a recording or watching a video, had never known to edify or build up my faith, let alone cause me to sing for joy to the Lord. I have read in one of his books that holiness is based on fear of punishment rather than on love, which casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18) His explanation was that because we are imperfect, perfect love cannot yet work in us, therefore justifying the need to fear. If this is true, then this may have been the motive underlying my friend's fervency in prayer, which seemed to have matched those who hold the same view of salvation.

To write a full debate on this matter would take several blogs, for such a debate would be too much for a single blog. But I would like to quote a few verses and compare:

And this is the will of him who, that I shall lose none of all he has given me, but raise them up on the last day. John 6:39.

My sheep listens to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them from my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. John 10:27-30.

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours, you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. John 17:6-7.

So all believers in Jesus Christ are gifts to the Son from the Father for dying on the cross to atone for their sins. If we were to compare the above verses with these below, would we get a flat contradiction?

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Revelation 2:11.

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. Revelation 2:17.

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. Revelation 3:5.

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21.

Laodicea, to the church there Jesus said that he too, had to overcome.

David Pawson has written books and made video and audio recordings on these verses, breaking to smithereens any concept of Eternal Security. So comparing all these verses, the impression that comes over is that on one hand, we are gifts to the Son from the Father. The second group implies that a degree of human effort is needed to attain eternal life and not be blotted out of the book of life. In short, Pawson - and others like him - insist that we must hold fast to what we have been taught or else we end up in Hell.

Suppose a believer fails to overcome? Apparently, according to Pawson, the Lord Jesus will blot his name out of the book of life and his soul will suffer forever in Hell. There are a few serious problems with this idea, which I wish to list here:

1. The Son finds that the Father's gift wasn't satisfactory. It's very much like returning a purchased item to the shop after discovering a flaw, or looking at a gift horse in the mouth. Jesus may not be necessarily happy with everything the Father had given him.

2. The Father's omniscience is denied. He selects someone for Jesus, only to find out that this believer failed to meet his credentials. In other words God does not know what is going to happen next.

3. That the Atonement made on the cross was not sufficient enough to have taken effect without the believer's ability to overcome through his own will and power. In short, the crucifixion has failed to atone fully. This is the central core of the Roman Catholic Catechism which demands the need of Sacraments for the sinner to receive forgiveness and attain Heaven.

4. What was that which had to be overcome? The person's sinful habit? Or to remain faithful? In that case we are left with either a sinful Christ or one whose faith was threatening to waiver. In Revelation 3:21, Jesus himself overcame in order to sit on his Father's throne. What if he had failed to overcome?

So where Pawson's interpretation of these verses (and there are three more very similar verses within these two chapters) indicate a believer must either overcome or perish, both John (who many believe wrote Revelation) and Paul had different ideas about overcoming.

In 1 John 5:4-5, most likely the same person who wrote Revelation also wrote in one of his letters:

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory which overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Paul backs this up. In Romans 8:37:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

This set of verses looks to me that they give a satisfactory explanation to those found in Revelation. The person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God is already an overcomer and more than a conquerer, because Jesus himself achieved these victories on the cross. It is exactly the same with righteousness. The righteousness we have as believers is his righteousness, imputed into our accounts through faith. He was the one who conquered. He was the one who overcame. Both these victories are imputed into our accounts through faith. And what is this faith? According to John's own testimony, it is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

To say that Jesus Christ had overcome sin would mean that he himself was sinful, unless he overcame our sins. Rather, I tend to believe that what he overcame during his life were the three temptations: turning stones into bread while hungry, accepting a throne from Satan, and putting on a spectacular show to convince onlookers that he was the Messiah. It was a possibility that Satan also tempted him in the Garden of Gethsemane not to go to the cross because of the horrors associated with it.

Then what was the case with Judas Iscariot? Wasn't he a believer? A disciple? One of the apostles of Christ? According to Pawson, Judas was as much of a believer as the rest of his disciples. In Mark 6:7-13 (along with Matthew 10:1-15 and Luke 9:1-6) Judas was paired up with another disciple and sent off to preach the Kingdom of God with the others, two by two, making six pairs in all. We are not told whose Judas' partner was, neither do we have any record of feedback on what he got up to. Chances were that it was Judas' partner who did the preaching, healing and casting out of demons while Judas himself gave backing support. But according to Pawson, Judas failed to overcome temptation and ended up hanging himself as he stepped into a lost eternity.

But it was John who gave a greater insight of Iscariot than the other three Gospel writers. In John 12, we have Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, breaking an expensive jar of perfume and annointing the feet of Jesus with it, filling the room with fragrance. Judas objected, pretending to be concerned for the welfare of the poor. But John narrates that he didn't care for the poor, instead he wanted the perfume sold so he could dip his hands into the money bag. As treasurer, this has been going on for some time. Obviously, he did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, nor did he care, for he was more concerned for his own welfare and kept on stealing what was donated to the group.

In the next chapter, we have Jesus washing the disciple's feet, which must have included Judas' feet. When Peter got rather excited, Jesus explained that not all of them were clean, referring the one exception to Judas, vs.10-11. After the last supper, Jesus prayed for his eleven followers, (chapter 17) and he declared that both Father and Son had protected the eleven, and kept them safe from falling (eternal security) - except for the one doomed for destruction so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, v.12. The fulfilled Scripture referred here was most likely Psalm 41:9 which reads:

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

Another proof of God's omniscience, which makes Pawson's ideas look rather foolish. To "lift up his heel against me" after up to three years dipping his hand into the purse with dishonest intent, shows every sign that throughout the three years of Christ's ministry, Judas remained an unbeliever - even though he had plenty of time and opportunity to repent and believe Jesus as the Messiah. And God knew all this from eternity past.

David Pawson is a well-educated man with a thorough knowledge of the Bible. Thousands of Christian believers across the land adore him and uphold his authority. Personally, I don't believe Pawson is deliberately trying to trip us up. Rather, I believe that he is concerned that clinging to OSAS will lead to spiritual slackness and on to a licence to sin. My own experience as a believer in Eternal Security refutes this. God has saved me through faith in Jesus Christ. It is God who keeps me safeguarded and protects me from falling. My wish is to see more and more people come to the knowledge of the Truth and believe, especially my elderly parents.

Much of Pawson's teachings - which includes writing, audio, video recording and radio broadcasting - was gotten from Cambridge, where he collected a M.A. degree in Methodist theology. But it looks to me like he had taken a huge array of verses from different areas of the Bible and re-arranged them to form a theoretical chessboard - very much the same way as the Watch-Tower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses handle the Bible to support their theology of prophecy with movable dates.

My friend in church says that David Pawson was a big help to him. How much more of a greater help would Pawson could have been if he devoutly embraced OSAS?

Sunday, 14 July 2013


Last Sunday, after a long wait of 77 years, history was made in Wimbledon when Scotsman Andy Murray won the grand slam against Serbian Novak Djokovic at the All England Tennis Club. He was the first male Briton to have won the tournament since Fred Perry in 1936, when he defeated German Gottfried von Cramm, whom he also won against on the previous year in the Wimbledon men's single finals, after defeating Australian Jack Crawford at the same venue in 1934. So although Murray brought the long wait for a British finalist to win to an end, he still have to win two more tournaments at Wimbledon to equal Fred Perry.

But unlike Perry, who was generally disliked by the club officials for having come from a working class background, Murray was greeted by the besotted Etonian Prime Minister David Cameron, along with Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and opposition leader of the Labour Party Ed Milliband. Cameron even suggested a Knighthood for Murray, who in turn had far better sense to withdraw from such a proposition, with the greater percentage of the public agreeing.

Murray with the Wimbledon 2013 trophy

Along with his trophy, Murray also received a pay cheque of £1,600,000 as well as admiration from the nation - as a Briton, not an Englishman, as he was born in Dunblane, up north in Scotland and grew up there. Therefore I could not help but feel a notable lack of local public celebration for someone who had put Britain on the winning map after such a long wait. Now, had the winning finalist been his predecessor Tim Henman, a true blue Englishman and a Tory to wit, the whole nation would have had a forest of St George flags flying from just about every house and car aerial along with street bunting. Instead, life carried on, the world continues as it always does - no street parties, no bunting, just a day of front page newspaper coverage and a series of Facebook postings from a fan or two.

Murray was one of the fortunate ones. He happened to excel in a particular sport and now having received worldwide fame. A celebrity, even the chief Government minister fawned over enough to make a hasty decision to have him awarded a Knighthood. This takes me back to 1969 when three American astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, travelled 250,000 miles to the moon on the Apollo 11 and two of the three setting foot on the surface of the moon on July 20th for the very first time in human history. Instantly, all three became worldwide celebrities.

I recall the tremendous public applause as we watched the whole episode on monochrome television. I was sixteen at the time and it was more than a year after leaving school. As the three faced the TV cameras shortly after splashdown, I felt a wave of envy take hold of me. At my job, all I was doing was dogsbody work at a family-owned furniture-making factory under a war-veteran supervisor who had a hangup about not making any impact or a name for himself in the world. Fame and public recognition had totally eluded him. He hated his position of being "of the masses" or simply "rank and file" - both terms depicting ordinary unimportant people. He made sure that I fully understood that I was in no better position than he was. When I suggested that I was special, he rebuked me, followed by a stream of constant teasing. Unfortunately for him, he died around 1975 after being hit by a car, and took his grudge with him to the grave.

But his power over me not only stuck, but in the years to come I was able to see that the inward desire for fame and recognition is universal. Who would not want to appear on television, or better still, on the big screen or at a theatre stage? Alternatively, one can become an author and write books, or to be a newspaper journalist or news reporter on TV. Although a few authors with little or no academic qualifications do get their work published first time, this is rare. Rather, it is fiendishly difficult to get an edge in anywhere, and I read on a reliable source that the vast majority of novice writers see their efforts winging their way back home from the publishers accompanied by a reject note. Or ending up shedding tears in front of the TV camera. Such was the case of the audition of the Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat West End theatrical production as chief actor/singer, a few years ago. When one candidate's song failed the first round of the audition, he fell into the arms of presenter Graham Norton and cried like a baby while still live on air. Not the sort of emotion shown if failed for a post as a plumber. The role as Joseph was eventually won by a professional singer.

Even here on this website, it has been suggested that I write of my travel experiences and submit for publication. This sounds fine, if I knew that I stood a high chance of acceptance. Who would not want to see their own works on display for sale at Waterstones? Then again, it's my opinion that backpacking travel is not specifically unique, although this might have been the case half a century earlier. Nowadays there are a large number of undergrads who travel abroad on their gap-year and come back with tales of extraordinary adventures.

And here's the hunch. Such professions mentioned above all require degrees. It does look to me that gaining a university degree is a good alternative to local, national or worldwide recognition, and as in the case of journalism, a necessary stepping stone. As these careers are fiercely competitive, with thousands applying for so few posts, maybe physical excellence is possible with out and out determination, training and a huge dollop of pure luck.

So failing at school, being lucky enough to find and hold down a humble manual job, feeling one in a faceless crowd, of the masses, an also ran in sports, not recognised - let alone famous - little wonder that to my experience, being a nobody has the capability to lead to self-pity, depression, a life of hopelessness, failure, worthlessness, class envy, even suicide. I'm sure that among sport celebrities like Andrew Murrey, David Beckham or Bobby Charlton, or presenters like Brian Cox, Simon Reece or David Attenborough, along with numerous actors, singers, news reporters and newspaper journalists, such occupations are linked to public recognition and fame. It was interesting to note that just before writing this, a filler appeared on Amanda Platell's page of the Daily Mail. In it I read that since the Goring Hotel in London was the venue of Kate and the Middleton family just prior to her Royal Wedding to Prince William, its fortunes have soared with bookings stretching over months.

International footballer David Beckham

When I feel so small and insignificant, unimportant and worthless in a world of celebrities, one of the most liberating forces at work is the truth of the Gospel. I have found the value of celebrity losing its power when I learned the truth of the Gospel. In it is the knowledge that God loves you personally. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he died with my name and your name on the cross. When I first believed, God the Judge granted judicial acquittal, or justification. The very fact that every believer has his name written in the Lamb's Book of Life shows that God Almighty knows each one of us as individuals. And furthermore, the relationship is eternal.

What a wonderful truth - to be known and loved individually by the Almighty God!

And that's why I tend to pity, rather than show reverence to a celebrity. True enough, there are some, like singer Cliff Richard, who is world famous and a believer in Jesus. But most of the others do not, or had never known the Lord. Actress and singer Marilyn Monroe and ex Beatle John Lennon were such cases of great celebrities who lived and died without knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour, both stepping into lost eternities while still at the prime of their lives.

As for Andrew Murray, a friend I know personally, had given this tennis champion praise on Facebook for elevating patriotic and national pride and glory. Underneath, in one of the comment boxes, I wrote; 
What Andy needs now is Jesus Christ as Saviour.
My friend actually clicked "Like" on my comment, implicating full agreement.

Although Andy Murrey had done a great service to Great Britain, his glory is self-ward. I actually mourn for him rather than show reverence. In fact, I find it very difficult to show reverence to any celebrity who is still in his sins. Instead, I long for such a person to have faith in Jesus. This applies to everyone alive - to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Like this, an eternal crown awaits him in Heaven.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Calling God A Liar...

Anyone who is familiar with my blog archive may have come to the conclusion that I am rather amazed and astonished with the English; their culture, their way of thinking, what they believe, and their attitude. Probably as one like myself who speaks with an accent, appear different, that is, having a Continental appearance, and especially during my schooldays; prone to show emotion, lacking physical strength, useless as a popped balloon at team sports, and subject to verbal bullying, I had never felt that I fully belonged here. Even when I was older, more than once was I told to go back to my own country - but wait - England is my own country. I was born here, grew up here, and became very well acquainted with the English way of life over a span of sixty years. Nothing about my homeland should take me by surprise, even from one whose both parents arrived from Italy soon after the War, making me a full-blood Italian with a British citizenship.
Maybe it was the luck of the draw, or perhaps the Sovereign plan of God, that while my mother was pregnant with me throughout 1952, she frequently breathed in air which was polluted with London smog. Smoke from the city chimneys, both domestic and industrial, spewed daily into the air along with fumes from cars, buses, trucks and even steam-powered locomotives. When there was no wind, this stratum of smoke particles remained hanging in the air, combining with the winter fog to produce smog, hence the term. This gaseous gloup which Mum had to inhale surely brought no good whatsoever to this unfortunate foetus; as its mother was so familiar with the state of the buildings, Victoria Station in particular, being literally blackened with soot before the Clean Air Act was passed by the Government around 1962. But by then it was already too late. What if Mum lived by the coast throughout 1952, enjoying the daily sea breeze which was free from any pollution? Instead of failing at school, would I have had success in graduating as a doctor, which was my childhood dream?

So I could toss the argument back and forth. A developing foetus - better off by the sea, blown daily by a chilly sea breeze? Or being subjected to thick city smog marooned over the city by an area of meteorological calm? Whatever the outcome would have been, one famous guy I always have a liking for is Andrew Marr; journalist, news reporter, documentary presenter, and author.
Andrew Marr, in one of his more jovial moments.
To be honest, I have no idea of the condition the city of Glasgow was like in 1959 when Marr's mother walked the streets to complete her errands. Perhaps being much further up north, the constant chilly breeze kept the city free of smog, despite the presence of heavy, smoke-spewing industry at the time. But whatever the case might have been, towards the end of July of that year, a baby boy let out his first ever cry as he was brought into the world, destined for greatness.
And what was the difference between us two children? While I was a slow learner (although certainly not stupid) and already "doomed" for a life of menial tasks; several hundred miles to the north, young Andrew was making rapid progress in his primary school, which looked very promising - and perhaps assurance to his parents that their son will not end up scraping a living in some smoke-billowing, dirty, noisy factory or mill.
It doesn't seem fair, does it? Who knows what I could have been if my mother lived at an area well away from London. And another characteristic strength Andrew Marr seemed to have had as a boy which I didn't - stoicism, emotional suppression, the stiff upper lip. Could this have been the making of the British Empire? The master race? National superiority? Not to forget, also - greater advance in biological and social evolution? As a victim of bullying, I had shed tears often. Andrew apparently did not, as this extract from a recent article, about a severe stroke he had suffered recently and came close to death, had shown:
I have known Andrew Marr for many years,and he is not a man given to showing his emotions, let alone to talking about them.
He says: "Some people told me after what happened that I had to express my emotions - that I had to cry and let it out. Perhaps it's my Presbyterian upbringing, but there were no tears from me - even though there were many from others.
"I remember thinking that if I allowed myself to cry, who knows where it would stop. There are few things less attractive than self pity.
"I was never angry and I never asked, 'Why did it happen to me?'
In hospital I was surrounded by people in far worse situations than I was. They were all very brave, very tough and very cheerful. Being around people like that is a great antidote for self pity.
"In any case, I have had a very lucky life. I would have been pathetic to collapse at the first bit of bad luck."
Citation: The Daily Mail, Saturday June 29th, 2013.

Now if anyone said those words to me privately, I would have thought, What a pillock! - and took it no further. But instead, his words were published to the world and were available to anyone who could rustle up a quid from his loose change in his pocket. It was this widespread publicity which moved me to write this blog in response.
The interviewer was none other than journalist Amanda Platell, a strong advocate of British stoicism and the stiff upper lip. By reading the article, it was without doubt that Platell coaxed him with questions throughout the interview, and being as she is, wanted to bring their discussion to a climax of true British heroism, with the implication that Bulldog Britain has indeed evolved into a white master race from which other nationalities can look upon with reverential respect. Platell herself was born in 1957 and grew up in Perth, Australia. In the 1980s she backpacked to the UK with her partner at the time because, according to her own words, she was impressed with British stoicism which, we assume, made it the motherland of the greatest empire the world has ever had, and she wanted to experience life in the UK for herself, against the wishes of her partner, who eventually returned alone to Australia, leaving her to pursue her career in journalism as a lifelong single. 

Amanda Platell 

Marr and Platell represent two typical, well educated, middle class Brits. To them, showing emotion was considered very un-British, and Platell herself laments the decline of Britain to a sentimental, mawkish, emotional society since the death of Princess Diana in August, 1997, not long, as a matter of fact, after my own worldwide backpacking trip to Australia, going as far as Sydney. It is clear that if Marr and Platell typify Britain as it should be, I can't help feeling that there is something seriously wrong with a culture which classify itself as Christian.

Andrew Marr admits in growing up as a Presbyterian, a major Scottish denomination, which creed he renounced as early as fifteen years of age. He believes Charles Robert Darwin to have been the greatest Briton to have ever lived, and like Richard Dawkins, he became an ardent advocate of organic evolution as opposed to Divine Creation as taught by his Presbyterian church.  He had also visited and made documentaries at the Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin found his inspiration to write his thesis, On the Origin of Species. It looks apparent to me that there is a close link between Darwinism and British stoicism.

Not that I'm against stoicism. It is in itself a good characteristic quality to have, particularly in a crisis. Rather than explode in panic or end up tied in emotional knots, stoicism goes a long way towards tackling the task to either solving the problem, averting a disaster or saving lives. But where I disagree strongly with Platell, and perhaps Marr as well, is that those two believe stoicism is uniquely British. Here I can quote two examples of human stoicism outside the UK. One was of the pilot and crew of Flight 1549 New York La Guarda Airport to Charlotte, Carolina on January 15th, 2009. The 'plane came down soon after take off and fell into the Hudson River, most likely due to a bird strike at both of the 'plane's engines. The pilot in particular, an American, was hugely praised for calmly taking the right action in saving the lives of all the passengers and crew.

But the greatest example of non-British stoicism must be the 33 miners trapped in an underground mine cavern at St. Jose, Chile for several weeks before finally being rescued, with every life saved. This crisis was the result of the collapse of the access shaft leading to the chamber, which happened on August 5th, 2010. Rather than screaming in panic or gripped by terror, the trapped miners, with enough fuel for lighting and with available tools, converted one end of the chamber into a chapel, from where the miners prayed each day to be rescued. They eventually attracted attention from outside and a shaft was excavated to the roof of the mine chamber, with which a special elevator lifted each miner, one by one, six weeks after the initial disaster. It was a stupendous feat, carried out slowly and with meticulous care. There were no reports of panic, even though some of these miners remained mentally traumatic for years afterwards.

An elevator lifts a miner out of the doomed mine chamber, Chile.

With such a display of stoicism, the weekend after the rescue was completed, I bought a copy of the Daily Mail newspaper hoping to read Platell's verdict at her weekly column. Surely, this journalist would have poured praise upon praise to those who rescued the miners and to the miners themselves. What a demonstration of stoicism! But, much to my disappointment, Amanda Platell was away that weekend. Her very absence had sent a strong message which was this: Faced with a situation contrary to her pet opinion, she had done a runner. If the rescue had taken place in Britain, especially southern England, she would without doubt splashed several pages of the newspaper with adoring praise and declaring that the British Bulldog hadn't died with Princess Diana after all!

Also noted in Platell's interview with the TV presenter, Marr was right about self-pity. Self-pity is actually a sin, and according to one American Christian psychologist Tim LaHaye, this emotion is the universal cause of depression, with extreme cases of suicide. Worldwide, and certainly in Britain, depression is a universal mental and emotional malady, experienced by just about everyone to one degree or another. A number of times lately I have experienced train delays and journey disruptions due to someone jumping in front of a moving train, all in the prosperous south of England. Self-pity - feeling sorry for oneself - is wrong. The one proper remedy for this is to trust in the atonement Jesus Christ had made on the cross and his resurrection, and be filled daily with the Holy Spirit, which entails becoming familiar and knowledgeable with the Bible. I should know. There was a time I was tempted to commit suicide myself before I met Jesus Christ.

But this blog is not primarily aimed at self-pity and depression. Rather, it is allowing one to express emotions freely when at certain circumstances, some positive. To say that displaying emotion in public is sentimental, mawkish or un-British is making a declaration that the British bulldog is above God and stronger than the Almighty. This considering that at two recorded occasions Jesus wept in public. The first occasion occurred on the way to the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (KJV):

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it. Saying, if  thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. Luke 19:41-42.

The second was over the death of Lazarus, to whom Jesus wept (John 11:35) and to whom the Pharisees remarked how Jesus loved him, v. 36.

It is important to note that in neither occasion did Jesus weep out of self-pity, but from a genuine grief over someone's demise or the fate of a city. This is the very same set of emotions Platell criticises British society of mawkishness. If a loved one dies, and the widowed cannot hold his or her emotions in a public setting, then that person should be comforted, not frowned upon, especially if the widowed is male.

But does Paul the apostle mention stoicism as a Fruit of the Spirit in one of his letters? I'm referring to Galatians 5:22-23, which reads (NIV):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.

Self control as a fruit of the Spirit could well be similar to stoicism, but British culture leaves out the rest! - Although their ability to form orderly queues may consider patience as included. But these virtues which Platell promotes are not fruits of the Holy Spirit, as the vast majority of the British are unbelievers. British stoicism therefore must be counterfeit to the real fruit which is divine. The unbelieving British, or of any other nationality, does not have the Holy Spirit manifesting from within, so therefore cannot produce any of his fruits. Stoicism is a counterfeit, based on human strength and pride, leading to a lost eternity in Hell, and therefore cannot be the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The genuine fruit of self control has the ability to return evil with goodness. If a person wrongs a believer, or even verbally or physically abuses him, the believer, instead of retaliating, treats his foe with kindness and compassion. That is self control. Divine fruit is far superior to British stoicism!

How I wish I could sit opposite Amanda Platell at her office desk, look hard into her eyes and let her see the truth which she had been blinded from all her life. How I long for her to see the love of Jesus Christ, who died for her! But I guess that would never happen, not because such a meeting would be considered a waste of her time, although that would be the excuse she would come up with. The real reason why I would never meet her is because such a confrontation with one who has the truth would terrify her.

As for Andrew Marr, he is a staunch evolutionist who nominated Charles Darwin as the greatest Briton in history. Evolution is contrary to Divine Creation. The Bible says that the heavens and the earth were created in six literal days and nights, the Hebrew evening and morning making a whole day, as the Jewish day ends at sundown. Uniformitarian geology and organic evolution says that it took billions of years for both rock strata and living things to arrive to where they are at present. The two cannot be both right. One says one thing, the other says something totally different.

If God says that he created everything in six literal days and nights, then the evolutionist who denies this is calling God a liar. Lucifer accused God of lying to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. To this day the snake in the garden is still talking. And he is using the academic and the well educated to spread his Edenic lie. Darwin was an Englishman. Geologist Charles Lyell, who wrote Principles of Geology and coined up the theory of Uniformitarianism, was a Scotsman. Is it a coincidence that the twofold lie which is keeping people away from Jesus Christ began here in the UK?

And so we have our modern duet, continuing with the Edenic lie. One maintains that inner strength through self effort and culture is a virtue in itself. The other is calling God a liar, as straightforward as that. As Lyell and Darwin had drawn the rest of us away from the truth of Christ, so Marr and Platell continue to push the Edenic lie.

Thus making all four the perpetrators of Hell, which grieves my heart. My longing is that everyone believes the Gospel and are saved, the English included.

Enough to make me weep aloud on a crowded station platform.